Cognitive ornithology & magpie

Marc Zao-Sanders Sep 28, 2018

We changed the name of our product from globalfilter to magpie. Here’s why.

We never loved the name globalfilter. Since inception the product concept - an intelligent learning recommender system - has always been strong. But we couldn’t think of a name which really grabbed us. But we needed a name and globalfilter described what it did (the filtering of absolutely any learning), had our company name in the title and so we launched with that.

And that was OK. But as clients signed up they started calling it all sorts of things: The Global Filter, Filtered, and my least favourite: globalfiltered. And no capitalisation and no spacing really threw the cat amongst the... birds. So we got together to consider alternatives.

We got to two candidates to replace globalfilter.

One was to have no name.

We are Filtered and we’ve built a beautiful intelligent learning recommendation system. Come talk to us about it. Is a product name really necessary?

Yes, it turns out.

There are just too many sentences we need to write and utter in which it’s helpful to have a handy abbreviation than a descriptive collection of four complex words (intelligent-learning-recommender-system). So not that.

The other was magpie.

We were already using magpie as the name for our stack of algorithms. Another AI-first company had used avian nomenclature for their algorithmic exploits. It had caught on internally and even externally, where we’d shared it. It’s more memorable, harder to spell wrongly and comes with obvious visual representations.

Also, magpies are intelligent. There’s lots of fascinating evidence for this. They are self-aware - see this mirror-test write up - and the only non-primates to have exhibited this capability. Self-awareness is, of course, one of the hallmarks of human intelligence and therefore a long-standing aspiration for those working in AI. Indeed, magpies have a range of advanced cognitive abilities. Give a chicken, quail, parrot and magpie a successive discrimination reversal task and the magpie beats the parrot (which beats the quail which beats the chicken). And let’s not forget: parrots can actually talk! Magpies are also able to develop complex, adaptive strategies such as win–stay, lose–shift. There may be a hardware-based explanation for this: magpies have a “larger numbers of neurons and greater neuronal density in the forebrain” compared to other birds. I recommend this intriguing study on the subject, from which all the examples in this paragraph are drawn.

So we think the Eurasian magpie represents what we’re doing very well. magpie (our tech) is a stack of algorithms which collectively define a personalized learning experience of recommendations of the best, most relevant, most useful, hardest-hitting freshest material in the cosmos. It’s complex, adaptive and neural - all terms used in the paragraph above and discussed at greater length in our vision, set out a year ago.

So, magpie it is.



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